WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
by German Lopez 02.14.2013
Posted In: Budget, 2013 Election, News, Mayor, Streetcar at 05:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)
 
 
qualls

Qualls Raises Concerns Over Streetcar Project

Streetcar construction bids come over budget

The latest batch of bad streetcar news provoked a harsh memo to the city manager’s office from Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a Democrat who has long supported the $125 million transit project. In the memo, Qualls wrote about “serious concerns” regarding the project’s costs and timetable. “Whether people support or oppose the streetcar project, everyone has a vested interest in getting the most for our public dollars and in having the highest confidence in the management of the project,” Qualls wrote. “While a council majority has continued to support the project, council has not given the administration a ‘blank check.’” The memo suggested putting the streetcar project through “intensive value engineering” to bring the project’s budget and timetable back in line — preferably in time for the 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star Game. The memo is in response to streetcar construction bids coming in $26 million to $43 million over budget. Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, says the bids leave the city with two options: The city could take up the current bids, which could have their costs brought down upon further review, or the city could reject the bids and rebid the project, which would cause delays. But Olberding also cautions that the administration is still working on fully reviewing the bids — a process that could take weeks or longer. Qualls is running for mayor against John Cranley, a former Democratic council member. Cranley has been a vocal opponent of the streetcar project — creating a strong contrast between the two candidates that has placed the streetcar in the center of the 2013 mayoral race. Earlier today, Cranley held a press conference asking the city to halt the streetcar project. In a statement, he argued it is “irresponsible” to continue work on the streetcar in light of the higher costs. CityBeat previously covered the streetcar and how it relates to the race between Qualls and Cranley (“Back on the Ballot,” issue of Jan. 23).
 
 
by German Lopez 02.13.2013
 
 
barack obama 2

Morning News and Stuff

Obama gives State of the Union, archdiocese defends LGBT firing, Qualls against HUD sale

President Barack Obama gave his State of the Union speech yesterday. During the speech, Obama outlined fairly liberal proposals for the economy, climate change, gun control and immigration. He also suggested raising the minimum wage to $9 and attaching it to rising cost of living standards. The Washington Post analyzed the proposals here. To watch a bunch of old people clap too much while the president outlines policy proposals that will likely never pass a gridlocked Congress, click here. The Archdiocese of Cincinnati is standing firm in its firing of Purcell Marian High School administrator Mike Moroski. The termination came after Moroski publicly stated his support for same-sex marriage on his blog — a position that contradicts the Catholic Church’s teachings. CityBeat covered Moroski’s case in this week’s news story, and gay marriage was covered more broadly in a previous in-depth story. Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls wants to stop the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) from selling 768 housing units in Walnut Hills, Avondale and Millvale. Qualls says the sale is “eerily similar” to a sale dating back to 2007, which resulted in dropping property values and blighted buildings. She argues local buyers should get a chance to take up the properties before HUD makes the sale to a New York company. State Treasurer Josh Mandel is up to his old tricks again. In a letter to Ohio legislators Monday, Mandel, a Republican, opposed the Medicaid expansion, claiming, “There is no free money.” But for the state, the Medicaid expansion is essentially free money. The federal government will cover all the costs of the expansion for the first three years, then phase down to paying 90 percent of the costs by 2020 — essentially, free money. Gov. John Kasich, another Republican, has backed the Medicaid expansion, claiming it makes financial sense in the long term. In 2012, Mandel lost the race for Ohio’s Senate seat after he ran a notoriously dishonest campaign against U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown. Financing details for the Brent Spence Bridge are due in March. The details will provide much-wanted information for local residents cautious about the new tolling scheme, which will help pay for the bridge’s reconstruction. Cincinnati officials and residents celebrated the work completed near the Horseshoe Casino at an event yesterday. Mayor Mark Mallory highlighted the infrastructure improvements made to accommodate the casino, calling the work a successful collaboration between city government, the casino and residents. The Ohio Resource Center has a new website for K-12 digital content. The website, ilearnOhio, is supposed to provide parents and students with the tools needed for online distance learning. Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill is being sued for not paying rent. The restaurant claims it’s financially viable, but it’s holding the rent in escrow after its landlord allegedly violated the leasing agreement. The establishment was one of the first to open at The Banks. A public Ohio school district is fighting a lawsuit in order to keep its portrait of Jesus. The school district claims the portrait is owned by a student club and is “private speech,” but opponents argue the portrait violates separation of church and state. Update on the Alamo situation at Tower Place Mall: Only one tenant remains. The unofficial spokesman of Heart Attack Grill, the infamous Las Vegas restaurant, died of a heart attack. Americans expect a human mission to Mars in the next 20 years, but that’s probably because they don’t know how little funding NASA gets. An asteroid will barely miss Earth on Feb. 15. If it were to hit, it would generate the explosive equivalent of 2,500 kilotons of TNT. In comparison, the nuclear bomb that hit Hiroshima during World War 2 generated a measly equivalent of 17 kilotons of TNT.
 
 
by German Lopez 02.11.2013
Posted In: 2013 Election, Mayor, News, Education, Economy, CPS at 09:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
qualls

Morning News and Stuff

Qualls calls for debates, CPS serves as model, Kasich's education plan breaks promises

In response to Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley’s call for a debate, the campaign for Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, another Democratic candidate for mayor, is calling both campaigns to schedule a series of debates. Jens Sutmoller, Qualls’ campaign manager, said in a statement, “Vice Mayor Qualls believes the citizens of Cincinnati deserve a robust series of public debates between the two final 2013 Mayoral candidates. She looks forward to articulating her optimistic vision of Cincinnati’s future and the investments we need to make in our neighborhoods and city to achieve a welcoming city of opportunity for all our citizens.” Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) are being used as a model by other schools around the state and country. Other schools are particularly interested in Cincinnati’s community learning centers, which provide services not directly related to education, including health clinics, mental health counselors, tutoring programs and extensive after-school programs. The approach is being praised for making schools serve the greater needs of communities. CityBeat wrote about CPS and its community learning centers here. Steve Dyer, an education policy fellow at Innovation Ohio, says Gov. John Kasich’s school education plan actually does the opposite of what Kasich claimed: “However, after examining the district-by-district runs produced by the Kasich Administration yesterday (which I posted at Innovation Ohio earlier), what is clear that even without eliminating the guaranteed money Kasich said he wants to eliminate soon, kids in the poorest property wealth districts in the state will receive 25 cents in additional state revenue for every $1 received by kids in the property wealthiest districts.” A CityBeat analysis found the education plan increases funding for Cincinnati Public Schools, but not enough to make up for past cuts. The University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati State and Miami University are getting slight increases in funding under Kasich’s higher education funding plan. The plan increases overall higher education funding by 1.9 percent, with UC getting 2.4 percent more funding, Cincinnati State getting 4 percent more and Miami getting 1.8 percent more. The increased funding should be helpful to Miami University, which recently initiated $99 million in summer construction and renovation projects. Historically, Ohio has given its universities less funding per pupil than other parts of the country. An appeals court ruling could put the Anna Louise Inn back at square one. On Friday, the Ohio First District Court of Appeals affirmed most of a lower court’s ruling against the Anna Louise Inn, but it sent the case back down to the lower court on a legal technicality. The ruling means the case could restart, but Tim Burke, the inn's attorney, claims the Anna Louise Inn has already done what the appeals court asked. For CityBeat’s other coverage of the Anna Louise Inn, click here. Media outlets are finally picking up the story about illegal immigrants and driver’s licenses. Gongwer wrote about it here, and The Columbus Dispatch covered it here. CityBeat originally wrote about the story last week (“Not Legal Enough,” issue of Feb. 6). Following the board president’s comparison of Adolf Hitler and President Barack Obama, the Ohio State Board of Education is set to discuss social media. CityBeat wrote about Board President Debe Terhar’s ridiculous Facebook post here. Remember the Tower Place Mall! Two tenants are holding out at the troubled mall as they look for different downtown locations. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine wants everyone to know he’s still cracking down on synthetic drugs. The pope is stepping down. How kids draw dinosaurs is probably wrong.
 
 
by German Lopez 02.08.2013
Posted In: Economy, News, Budget, Mayor, Taxes at 10:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Parking vandalism, Cranley demands debate, Kasich plan limits counties

Damaged parking meters in Over-the-Rhine are causing problems for residents and local businesses. For months, thieves have been cutting off the top of meters to steal change. The vandals directly steal revenue from the city, ensure the damaged meters won’t collect revenue until they’re fixed and force the city to shell out more money to fix the meters. Businesses and residents are also worried the damaged meters cause confusion for drivers and make the area look unattractive. Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley wants to debate Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a Democrat who’s also running for mayor, over the city’s plan to privatize parking services. Cranley, a former council member, has pushed the city to find an alternative to the privatization plan — sometimes leading him to make claims with little backing. Qualls isn’t ecstatic about the privatization plan, but she seems to side with City Manager Milton Dohoney’s position that it’s necessary to avoid the layoff of 344 city employees. County officials around the state are peeved at Gov. John Kasich’s budget plan because it limits how much they can leverage in county sales taxes. The proposal bars counties from changing their sales tax rates for three years starting July 2013, and it also adjusts county’s rates to force a 10 percent revenue increase over the prior year beginning December 2013. The Kasich administration claims the move is necessary to prevent county governments from using the governor’s plan to subtly raise the sales tax, but county officials argue the move infringes on local rights. Kasich’s plan lowers the state sales tax rate from 5.5 percent to 5 percent, but it expands what’s affected by the tax. CityBeat analyzed Kasich’s budget proposal yesterday: CPS Still Loses Funding Under Kasich Administration: The budget does increase school funding for Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS), but it’s not enough to make up for the last state budget cuts to CPS.Kasich Tax Cut Favors Wealthy: Kasich claims he’s giving a tax cut to every Ohioan, but a new report from Policy Matters Ohio shows the poor and middle class will pay more on average under his plan. Kasich’s school funding plan is also drawing complaints from school leaders. At a press conference, Kasich made his plan sound fairly progressive, but school leaders found the actual numbers underwhelming, and 60 percent of schools won’t get any increased funding. City Council Member Chris Seelbach took to Facebook to slam Cranley for some recent comments regarding freestanding public restrooms. During an interview with Bill Cunningham, Cranley tried to politicize the issue by saying City Council wants to build a $100,000 freestanding restroom. In his Facebook post, Seelbach explained that’s not the case: “John Cranley, if you haven't heard (which I find surprising), NO ONE on City Council has ever said, in any capacity, that we should spend $100,000+ on a 24-hour public restroom facility. No one. In fact, I went on Bill Cunningham to make that clear. I'd appreciate if you'd stop trying to politicize the real issue: Finding a way to offer more public restroom choices in our urban core for our growing and thriving city. In case you didn't hear my interview with Cunningham, or my comments to almost every media source in this region, I'll post the interview again.” Seelbach’s interview with Cunningham can be found here. Clifton’s new grocery store will begin construction next week. Goessling's Market-Clifton is finally replacing Keller's IGA on Ludlow Avenue. A local high school’s prom was canceled to punish students for a massive water balloon fight at lunch. The giant fight was planned as a prank on social media, and school staff tried to prevent it by warning students of the repercussions on the day of the prank. Students did not listen. Prom was lame, anyway. PNC Bank donated $450,000 to Smale Riverfront Park. The money will be used to build the PNC Grow Up Great Adventure Playground, which will have a swinging rope bridge for kids to walk across a canyon. PNC is among a handful companies to donate to the riverfront park; most recently, Procter & Gamble donated $1 million. Cincinnati was called the most literate city in Ohio. The Montgomery County Democratic Party endorsed the Freedom to Marry Amendment, which would legalize same-sex marriage. CityBeat wrote about the amendment here. Kasich’s latest budget proposal would privatize food services in prisons to save $16.2 million. The Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, which represents prison staff, has come out against the plan. A lawsuit has been filed to take down a Jesus portrait in Jackson Middle School in southern Ohio. The lawsuit is being backed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and the Freedom from Religion Foundation. They argue the portrait is an “unconstitutional endorsement of religion and must be removed.” A new cure for color blindness: goofy glasses. There’s new evidence that a giant asteroid really sparked earth’s last great mass extinction event, which killed the dinosaurs.
 
 
by German Lopez 02.06.2013
Posted In: News, Economy, Budget, Streetcar, Taxes, Privatization at 10:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
p.g. sittenfeld.nar

Morning News and Stuff

Petition against privatization, Kasich sales tax hurts many, USquare development criticized

Council Member P.G. Sittenfeld is circulating a small business petition to stop Cincinnati from privatizing parking services. Sittenfeld threw his support behind the petition in a statement: “Individual citizens have made clear that they are overwhelmingly against outsourcing our parking system. Now we're going to show that small businesses feel the same way. I hope that when council sees that the small businesses that are the engine of our city are strongly against outsourcing our parking, we can then nix the proposal immediately.” The petition asks city officials “to find a smart, resourceful, sustainable alternative to address the budget situation.” City Manager Milton Dohoney says parking privatization is necessary to avoid laying off 344 city workers. Gov. John Kasich’s expanded sales tax is going to hurt a lot of people. The tax is being expanded to apply to many items included in households’ monthly budgets, such as cable television, laundry services and haircuts. The revenue from the sales tax expansion will be used to cut the state income tax by 20 percent across the board, lower the sales tax from 5.5 percent to 5 percent and slightly boost county coffers. City Council and local residents are not impressed with the USquare development. At a City Council meeting Tuesday, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls described the development: “I have to say that it is underwhelming. And that’s about the kindest thing I can say about it.  And also really repeats, on many different levels, virtually all of the mistakes that have ever been made in the city and in neighborhoods when it comes to creating public spaces.” But architect Graham Kalbli said he’s excited about the plan: “Because we’ve taken a vacant strip of land and really made kind of a living room for the Clifton Heights community. We wanted to do that, that was one of our overriding goals.” The Hamilton County Board of Elections is subpoenaing 19 voters who are suspected of voting twice in the November election. Most of the voters being investigated filed provisional ballots then showed up to vote on Election Day. David Mann is officially running for City Council. The Democrat has served as a council member, mayor and congressman in the past. Traffic congestion isn’t just bad for drivers; it’s also bad for the environment and economy. The Annual Urban Mobility Report from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute found traffic congestion cost Cincinnati $947 million in 2011 and produced an an extra 56 billion pounds of carbon dioxide nationwide. Leslie Ghiz is taking the judge’s seat a little early. The former city council member was elected to the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court in November, but she was appointed to the seat early by Gov. John Kasich to replace Dennis Helmick, who retired at the end of 2012. The magic of capitalism: Delta is already matching a low-cost carrier’s fares to Denver at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.  The U.S. Postal Service is ending Saturday mail delivery starting Aug. 1. The Postal Service has been dealing with financial problems ever since a 2006 mandate from U.S. Congress forced the mail delivery agency to pre-fund health care benefits for future retirees. Riddled with gridlock, Congress has done nothing to help since the mandate was put in place. This will be the first time the Postal Service doesn’t deliver mail on Saturdays since 1863. It’s unlikely zombies could be cured by love, but it’s possible they could be cured by science. The next Michael Jordan has been discovered:
 
 
by German Lopez 02.04.2013
Posted In: Prisons, Privatization, News, Economy, Budget at 10:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
Liberty for Sale

Morning News and Stuff

Violence at private prison, JobsOhio gets liquor funds, Kasich's budget blueprint

There’s even more bad news coming from Ohio’s newly privatized prison. Violence last week forced Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) to call in the state’s special response team, according to Plunderbund. Two teams from the Ohio Department of Correction and Rehabilitation were dispatched. Gov. John Kasich pushed prison privatization in his 2012-2013 budget to save costs. CityBeat covered private prisons and the shady connections CCA had to the current state government prior to the sale here. There might be a court case disputing JobsOhio’s constitutionality, but that hasn’t stopped the state government from moving forward with implementing the private, nonprofit agency. On Friday, the state announced it transferred $500 million in state liquor funds to JobsOhio. The Ohio Supreme Court recently agreed to take up a case from ProgressOhio disputing whether state funds can be used for the private agency. Kasich established the agency in an effort to encourage job growth in Ohio. Kasich will reveal the blueprint for his 2014-2015 budget plan later today. According to Gongwer, his proposed budget will cut personal income taxes across the board and offset the cuts by closing loopholes and broadening the sales tax base. The governor has long been eying an income tax cut. He previously suggested raising the oil and gas severance tax to help pay for a tax cut, but the plan faces bipartisan opposition. In the 2013 mayoral race, John Cranley is currently outraising Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, but both Democrats are fairly close. Qualls has raised $134,188, while Cranley has raised $170,877. Most of the race has focused on the streetcar so far, with Qualls supporting and Cranley against the twice-voter-approved transit project. The city of Cincinnati and Duke Energy have reached a limited agreement to meet in court to settle who has to pay for moving utility lines to accommodate for the streetcar’s tracks. As part of the agreement, Duke will begin moving lines in the next few weeks, even while the city and Duke wait for courts to decide who will pay for moving the lines. Mayor Mark Mallory also announced the city will try to finish the streetcar project in time for the 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, but he added there are no guarantees. For more on the streetcar and how it relates to the 2013 mayoral race, check out CityBeat’s cover story.Libertarian Jim Berns recently forced a mayoral primary by entering the race. Community leaders around Greater Cincinnati are mapping out veteran services programs. Ohio is expanding its foreclosure prevention program. The maximum benefit possible has increased from $25,000 to $35,000, and the highest annual household income allowed to participate in the program is now $112,375. The Ohio Board of Regents finished moving to the Ohio Board of Education building. Looks like Ohio First Lady Karen Kasich’s Twitter account was hacked. Smokers will pay higher prices under Obamacare. Physicists have created crystals that are nearly alive.
 
 
by Hannah McCartney 02.01.2013
 
 
streetcar

Court to Decide Dispute over Streetcar Utility Lines

Mallory announces construction to begin in April on track for 2015 completion

Another hurdle in the ongoing struggle to make the streetcar a reality was bypassed today, when Mayor Mark Mallory and City Manager Milton Dohoney, Jr. announced that after months entangled in a gridlock, Duke Energy and the city of Cincinnati have finally reached an agreement over who will pay for the relocation of utility lines. Somewhat of an agreement, anyway. Mallory said that the city and Duke will go before a judge in Common Pleas court, who will make the final decision as to who should pay for the utility relocation. According to the agreement, Duke Energy will begin moving its utilities in the next few weeks, and the court decision will determine cost responsibility later. The city and Duke are expected to file in Common Pleas court within the next few weeks, although the court decision could take years to finalize.The city broke ground on the streetcar nearly a year ago, but the skirmish between Duke and the city delayed further development — Duke refused to begin any kind of construction before financial responsibility was determined. The reconciliation contains two separate agreements, one of which outlines how Duke will safely operate its utilities once the streetcar is in place. The other demarcates how Duke and the city will resolve the issue of financial responsibility; they've both agreed to abide by the court ruling after any appeals are exhausted.  "The utilities' agreements are in place, the cars are being ordered and the construction bids are coming in," announced Dohoney. Roxanne Qualls, city council member and Democratic mayoral candidate, has long been a supporter of the streetcar project, which she values as an indispensable economic investment for the city of Cincinnati. Yesterday, Qualls announced her request for the city to ramp up the streetcar construction timeline in order to have the project completed in time for the All-Star Games, which will take place in Cincinnati July 2015. Her announcement came just weeks after the city revised its timetable to delay project completion until April 2016. In a letter from Qualls to Mallory and Dohoney, she explains: “This may present a challenge, but it is one I am sure the administration is capable of meeting. The streetcar will serve a critical role in efficiently and effectively moving visitors to and from Great American Ballpark and allowing them to conveniently visit other venues such as Fountain Square, Horseshoe Casino, Over-the-Rhine, Washington Park, etc.” At the meeting, Mallory announced that the city would shoot for construction to be completed prior to the games, but there were no guarantees. The streetcar builder will ultimately set the timeline for the project, according to Jason Barron, Mallory's director of public affairs. CityBeat recently covered the streetcar project's delays and how the 2013 mayoral race could affect its progress here.
 
 
by German Lopez 01.31.2013
 
 
qualls

Morning News and Stuff

Qualls wants streetcar sooner, new school funding plan, council urges Medicaid expansion

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls is asking the city administration to complete construction of the streetcar in time for the 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, which will be hosted in Cincinnati. A letter from Qualls to City Manager Milton Dohoney and Mayor Mark Mallory explains her reasoning: “This may present a challenge, but it is one I am sure the administration is capable of meeting. The streetcar will serve a critical role in efficiently and effectively moving visitors to and from Great American Ballpark and allowing them to conveniently visit other venues such as Fountain Square, Horseshoe Casino, Over-the-Rhine, Washington Park, etc.” CityBeat covered the streetcar’s delays and how the project relates to the 2013 mayor’s race here. Gov. John Kasich will reveal his plan for funding Ohio schools today. The plan is expected to include a $300 million “innovation fund” to support school initiatives that improve teaching and learning. In a previous interview, Rob Nichols, Kasich’s spokesperson, explained the troubles of establishing a plan: “Many governors have tried before. Many states have been sued over their formulas. It’s something we have to take our time with and get it done right.” City Council passed a resolution urging Kasich to expand Medicaid. Qualls explained the need for the resolution: “Expanding Medicaid will create a net savings to the state over time, allow the City’s health department to improve access to health services at lower costs, and most importantly, provide health care coverage for thousands of Cincinnati residents who need it most.” A study from the Health Policy Institute of Ohio found a Medicaid expansion would save the state money for the first few years. Previous studies also found correlations between improved health results in states and a Medicaid expansion, and a study from the Arkansas Department of Human Services claimed Arkansas would save $378 million by 2025 with the Medicaid expansion. A new report found poverty is increasing in Ohio. About one in six Ohioans are below the federal poverty line, according to the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies report. About $100 million in development downtown is kicking off today. City officials and business leaders are gathering for the groundbreaking this morning of a lot at Fifth and Race streets that has idled for nearly 30 years. The lot will host the new four-story headquarters for DunnhumbyUSA. Kasich says Ohio will continue taking Ky. jobs in the future. The rough words are Kasich's interesting approach to encouraging Ky. legislators to support the Brent Spence Bridge project. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine issued a scam alert telling businesses to be wary of emails claiming to be from the Federal Trade Commission or FTC. Miami University broke its application record. A Wright State professor saved Cincinnati-based Kroger more than $170 million with his work on more accurate pharmaceutical predictions. The professor, Xinhui Zhang, is now one of the six finalists worldwide for the Franz Edelman Award.Ohioans now have a phone number to report cases of child abuse or neglect: 855-O-H-CHILD, or 855-642-4453. Reports can be anonymous.Humanity is one step closer to the inevitable robot apocalypse. GE's hospital robot can sort scalpels, sterilize tools and prepare operating rooms for surgery.
 
 

Back on the Ballot

Why the streetcar will be at the center of the 2013 mayoral race despite its progress

13 Comments · Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Facing new delays and political controversy, the streetcar is once again in the news — and, for better or worse, this year’s mayoral campaign will keep it there for much of the coming year.    

Looking Ahead to a Busy Year in Local and State Politics

0 Comments · Wednesday, January 9, 2013
With 2012 in the past, it’s time to start preparing for a brand new year of politics and policy. From what’s been hinted at so far, progressives could have another big year in 2013, but only if they work for it.   

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